In Chinese medicine, we frequently refer to “systems,” not just individual organs. The Lung System consists of the Lungs (a Yin organ), as well as its pair, the Large Intestine (a Yang organ). The element associated with Lung is Metal, and the color is white. It governs the skin and the Wei Qi of the body, which includes but is not limited to our immune system. Lung rules the outer limits of our body, and protects against external invasion and safeguards internal resources. The season associated with the Lung System is Fall, and its pathological emotion is grief or sadness. When functioning optimally, Lung expresses vitality, positivity, inspiration and is communicative. So in order to support healthy and radiant skin, we look to support it comprehensively through the breadth of the Lung System. For example, exercise works the lungs and infuses the blood and brain with oxygen; optimal circulation results in better facial color and overall vitality. Proper elimination via the Large Intestine releases toxins from the body. If your physical and emotional boundaries have integrity, then the chance of illness is reduced and you will remain steady (more often than not) during times of stress.
CHAPTER 1. Start Now
In our 20s, most of us were resilient: staying up late, partying, burning the candle at both ends, too much sun at a beach or summer party, or even winter sun and dryness on the ski slopes. But once we hit 30, some of that sun damage becomes more obvious, especially on the face and chest. Expression lines (not wrinkles) may begin to appear. In our 40s, we see crow’s feet, forehead creases and those frowny vertical lines between eyebrows. After 50, skin becomes thinner, dry and possibly dull, particularly after the last menstrual cycle. Sometime in the 50s or 60s, you may begin to see sagging skin and actual wrinkles.
Aging is inevitable, but aging gracefully means taking care of your health. Your skin is a mirror of how you are aging. It reflects your diet and what kind of activity you indulged in, for better or worse.
Certain foods are triggers for acne and rashes. Food allergies or sensitivities commonly cause skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis. Sugar is a trigger for wrinkles and inflammation. Wine and other alcohol raises cortisol, a stress hormone, which accelerates the aging of the skin. Smoking adds heat to the body, which is drying, and the toxins in tobacco products and some drugs will eventually accumulate.
So while we need to manage sun exposure and stop smoking, there are many good choices that can be made around diet, nutrition, skin care and other lifestyle factors.
CHAPTER 2. Feed Your Skin
Foods that keep you healthy in general will also help your skin look its best.
- Drink water. Drink it upon arising, be- fore and after exercising, drink through- out the day, and drink water before a meal (but don’t drink a lot during or after a meal; you don’t want to drown your digestive juices). How much in total? About half your body weight in ounces. You should drink enough that your urine is mostly clear. Skin can appear dull and withered if you are dehydrated, and it loses some elasticity. Hydration is important if you are visiting the desert or will be at high elevation (summer or winter). Hydration is also important when you fly. Dehydrated skin lacks water (as opposed to dry skin, which lacks oil).
- Reduce or eliminate sugar (and sugar substitutes; this includes all artificial sweeteners, honey and maple syrup). Stevia is ok, but the more you can avoid all sweeteners, the better your skin—and mood—will be). Sugar feeds bacteria and inflammation, and contributes to mood swings, cravings, bloat and gas. Need another reason? It also destroys collagen. Sugar includes alcohol, which can also contribute to dehydration. According to Chinese dietary therapy alcohol is a combination of Damp and Heat, which would aggravate acne, rashes, and rosacea and fungal skin conditions. Read labels and discover sources of sugar you may not have been aware of in packaged foods. Better yet, avoid processed foods as much as possible. Eliminating sugar also helps to reset your insulin levels. So much good can come from eliminating sugar from your diet.
- Increase your protein intake, because it contributes to collagen production. This can include chicken, fish (low in mercury), grass-fed beef, beans, quinoa and whole soy foods. The more active you are, the more protein you’ll need. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (https://www.seafoodwatch.org/ seafood-recommendations/our-app) will help you make ocean-friendly seafood choices when you are out for a meal, and it uses common market names, including sushi choices.
- Eat one pound of veggies a day, choosing nutritionally dense ones
like cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, peppers, sweet potatoes, green beans, summer and winter squash, spinach, bok choy, avocado, endive, watercress, asparagus, shitake mushrooms, parsley. Add chia seeds (soaked) to your meals, yogurt and/or smoothies. Concentrate on green and yellow veggies: they are rich in anti-oxidants and carotenoids, which help fight the free radicals that break down collagen.
- Omega 3s replenish the fats our skin loses as we age. So keep these products on your shopping list: olive oil, walnuts, flax seeds and fish low in mercury (for reference, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app: https:// www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/our-app).
- Find a green tea you like and enjoy it! If you’re new to green tea, try Gen Mai Cha (green tea + toasted rice) or a Jas- mine Green for starters. You may find that a squeeze of fresh lemon does the trick. Green tea contains anti-oxidants, and L-theanine, which is calming.
- Reducing salt intake (including soy sauce, packaged chicken, beef or veggie broth, tortilla chips and some condiments) will help reduce puffiness and water retention.
- Tomatoes: rich in lycopene, tomatoes help reduce UV sun damage.
- If you experience acne, then changing your diet will help reduce the inflammation that is expressing as acne. The most important 5 food categories to eliminate are: high-glycemic foods, sugar (don’t add sugar to food, but also check labels because it’s in so many products), junk food (white flour, white bread, sugar cereals, cookies, crackers, cakes, etc.), fast food (greasy, fried food) and some say cow’s milk (particularly non-organic milk). High-glycemic foods break down quickly in the body, triggering an insulin spike which raises blood sugar levels. That, in turn, triggers hormonal fluctuations and inflammation, both of which encourage acne.
CHAPTER 3. Nutritional Supplements
Essential Fatty Acids, Vit A & C, B Complex, magnesium probiotics, copper and zinc.
These nutrients play a big role in skin health. You can get them by eating a balanced diet, or increasing certain foods, and/or through vitamins.
The best way to determine what’s right for your skin is to look at your whole health picture. Essential fatty acids are beneficial for everyone, but if you have trouble digesting fats, you may need a special formulation that includes lipase. Vitamin A has immune-enhancing, antioxidant properties, meaning it helps reduce free radical damage. Vit A deficiency can manifest in eye problems, as well as dry eyes, dry hair and dry mouth. It can manifest in a variety of skin problems, such as flaky skin, dry scalp/ dandruff or cystic acne. Vitamin C is a building block of collagen, but you may need more than what is contained in a multivitamin. If you have a stressful work or home environment, you may be deficient in B vitamins, which are not skin-oriented per se, but may help with your whole body health picture. If you have chronic or intermittent constipation or diarrhea, then colon health may be improved with a probiotic, and bowel regularity should be addressed (you may need more water, extra fiber and more exercise). Magnesium, Vit C and copper are all co-factors (helper molecules for biochemical reactions) that are important for skin health as well as other important body functions. You may choose to add these foods to your grocery list or supplement with vitamins.
10.a) Find magnesium in oat bran and pumpkin seeds
b) Find Vit C in papaya and raspberries (organic)
c) Find copper in liver/pate, oysters and sesame seeds.
d) Find Omega 3s in fish oil, flax seeds, walnuts and olive oil.
e) Find zinc in oysters.
f) Find probiotics in yogurt (read the label to make sure it contains probiotics, and avoid any yogurt with added sugar, fructose or artificial sweetners), kefir, naturally fermented sauerkraut and pickles, microalgae, miso soup, kimchi, and kombucha tea.
g) Find Vit A in orange, yellow or red fruits and veggies, such as butternut squash, sweet potato, kale, carrots, dried apricots, cantaloupe, peaches, papaya, broccoli and spinach. Animal sources include beef liver, butter (organic), and egg yolks.
CHAPTER 4. Skin Protection
Prevention now will keep your skin in better shape as you age.
Using a barrier (SPF clothing, hats, visors, sunglasses) in combination with sunscreen is an effective two-step solution. This is typically a harder message for younger women to come to terms with than women over 35 or 40. But the damage accumulates in our teens and twenties and then begins to show as we move through our 30s and beyond.
- Wear a visor or hat when outside
- Wear UVA/UVB sunglasses and make sure your prescriptive lenses include it as well.
- Wear SPF clothing, such as Solumbra, Sun Precautions, Columbia and other performance-type SPF outdoor wear. If you have favorite outdoor or travel cloth- ing, consider the wash-in Rit Sun Guard treatment (lasts approx. 20 washes).
- Use a sunscreen that includes zinc and/or titanium dioxide. Avoid nano particles and sprays. Check for product safety through Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website for their comprehensive guide to safe sunscreens, and helpful information about sunscreen myths and misinformation. https://www. ewg.org/sunscreen/#.WywlQC2ZPUI Look for their Sunscreen Buyer’s Guide app, which is particularly helpful when you are at the store and shopping. If your skin is particularly sensitive, look for a UV Index app for your phone for when you must be outdoors, and protect your skin accordingly.
- Wear sunscreen on your lips, face, hands, décolletage and all exposed skin. Reapply as needed during long exposures.
- Consider sun exposure while driving. You may want to apply before a car trip, but don’t leave your sunscreen in the car as it can break down in the heat. You can also wear SPF driving gloves to protect your hands.
Purchase fresh sunscreen annually before warm weather starts. Then go out and enjoy the Vit D!
CHAPTER 5. Skin Care
Although I emphasize that beauty starts and is sustained on the inside, what you put on your skin also makes a difference.
- Start by throwing away old product. The more your products are exposed to light, air, heat and touch the faster they will be contaminated. Some products may even smell rancid, particularly if they are oil-based. Give your lipsticks the sniff test; they might not last one year. Pump-style products that aren’t exposed to air are generally more stable.
- Use products with a good safety rating. Check your brands and/or ingredients on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website (EWG.org/ SkinDeep, www.ewg.org/skindeep/#. Wywk8C2ZPUI). BeautyCounter.com is a full range skin care/cosmetic site that formulates around product safety, using EWG as a guide. There are other organic and clean brands, such as Annemarie Gianni, Jane Iredale, Osmosis, Dr. Hauschka, Mei Zen Skin Care. New clean product lines are constantly being introduced, so check the ingredient safety, and experiment. Consider having a facial with these products before buying, or experimenting with travel sizes to see if you like them.
- Use a cleanser that is pH balanced; not too acidic and not too alkaline. The skin’s outer layer, which holds in lipids and moisture, works best when it’s slightly acidic (5.5pH). When this outer layer is too alkaline, it gets dry and sensitive, which can lead to fine lines, wrinkles, dullness and dryness. When skin is too acidic, it may be vulnerable to increased breakouts, may feel raw, irritated or sensitive to the touch. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reported that after eight years, women with an alkaline outer layer developed more fine lines and crow’s feet, and were more prone to damage than those with more acidic skin. Cleansing ingredients that are too alkaline can easily disrupt your skin’s pH; your skin can take hours to restore itself. Although your cleanser needs to be able to break down dirt and oil, you don’t want to strip away your natural oils (this can result in dry and dull skin, or irritated skin).
21. Consider purchasing a moisturizer, foundation or mineral powder with an SPF-rating for more sun protection.
22. After exercising, wash away perspiration with a cleanser or make-up remover cloth. If you work out at a gym, then keep an appropriate cleanser with your workout clothes.
23.Wash your face at the end of the day! Your skin needs a rest from topical products and the grime, sweat and bacteria that accumulates. Use a gentle but thorough cleanser. Some women are in the habit of using a toner after washing, and they may find that some additional make up and/or dirt comes off with the toner. That is a sign that your cleanser isn’t working hard enough. Better to wash twice than use a toner as a second-step to remove dirt and oils. Some toners can be drying, so choose carefully to determine if you even need one. If you really don’t have the time or facilities to wash your face, then at least use a gentle make-up removing cloth to wipe off your face before sleeping. If you do not wear make up, you still need to wash your face before going to bed. Your face has been subjected to dirt, grime, sweat, air pollution, dog kisses and whatever is coming from your fingers (and mobile phone) on to your face.
- Better yet, minimize the use of make- up remover. Look for the Wonder Cloth at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Wet the cloth, apply cleanser and wash your face. It will remove all but waterproof mascara. The “wonder” of the Wonder Cloth is that all the make up and dirt washes off the cloth with just water, and the cloth won’t stain, like a regular washcloth. If you travel, stash one in your travel bag. bedbathandbeyond.com/store/ product/wonder-cloth/1011553966
- Consider scheduling 1-3 facials per year with a professional esthetician.
Do not be tempted by excessive micro dermabrasion; the short-term effects are not worth the long-term damage and weakening of the skin, which becomes more frail as we age. Also avoid chemical peels: the burning and redness is an irritating insult to the skin, and ultimately leaves it weaker and in poorer shape. Deep cleaning (without stripping the skin), and gentle exfoliation—along with sun protection—will keep your face in great shape over the long term.
- If your skin is dry, wash face and body with warm instead of hot water. Apply serums and moisturizers to your face when the skin is still damp. If your skin is extremely dry, irritated and red, you may want to consider a whole-house water filter. Chlorine and other water additives can aggravate sensitive or at-risk skin. If that’s not possible, then consider a shower-only filter.
- Organic Rose Hydrosol spray is a great way to refresh your face during the day or before going out at night. If you apply powder as a finishing step, a quick spritz of rose hydrosol will give it a more dewy appearance. Dry skin also responds well to organic rose hydrosol; use it to freshen your face during the day or after too much sun exposure. A spritz of rose can also help if your mood is slipping; it helps lift the emotion of sadness, which is in the domain of the Lung system and therefore the skin.
- RetinA, typically used to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, can be irritating and inflammatory until your skin accommodates to it; most product labels suggest testing a small area for sensitivity before use. A retinaldehyde product—another form of topical Vitamin A—will perform better with virtually no inflammation response, providing you use the appropriate strength for your skin. Because sun exposure can aggravate topical Vitamen A, it’s best to use it at night along with your evening cleansing, serum and moisturizing. A consultation will help determine what strength is appropriate for you.
- Topical Vitamin C is excellent for helping to reduce sun damage. It triggers amino acids to strengthen collagen, and assists in brightening and smoothing skin. It has mild inherent sun-protection factors. It helps to prevent scarring and heals the skin. Best to apply in the morning.
- Avoid heavy nighttime moisturizers. You can use the same moisturizer for day and night (unless you are using an SPF moisturizer, which is obviously not needed at night). Your skin needs to breathe while you sleep. Wearing a heavy moisturizer at night is like sleeping in clothes that are too warm and bulky.
- While you are treating your face
– washing, exfoliating, treating with serums, masks and moisturizing – be sure to include your décolletage. As we age, this skin will begin to show signs (just as your hands will). You may not need to purchase a specialty product for this: consider applying eye cream and/ or facial serums to the décolletage daily and nightly.
- Hands show age. Moisturize your hands before going to bed. If this is hard to remember, consider keeping a tube of hand lotion next to your bed. The harder your hands work, or with frequent washing, the more you will benefit from nighttime moisture. If you have ragged cuticles, consider applying oil to them. Some of today’s beard oils will do double-duty as a cuticle oil.
- If you wear wood clogs, flip-flops or go barefoot then consider applying a nourishing foot cream at night to pre- vent/repair cracked heels. If your tootsies need more TLC, then start with a foot soak of 1⁄2 cup Epsom salts and 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil for 15-20 minutes. Use a pumice stone on rough areas; be gentle but thorough. Dry your feet, then apply a foot cream. If your feet are really dry and rough, consider wearing cotton socks after you’ve applied foot cream to keep the moisture on your skin and off your sheets. You’ll wake with softer feet.
- Before showering, use a skin brush all over; this is dry brushing. It’s often recommended to do this as part of a total body detox protocol. Start at your toes and work up the legs towards the chest (yes, it tickles!). Then begin at the fingers and work up to chest-level. Then brush from the shoulders and neck downward towards the heart. All strokes should aim for the heart. This will help remove dead skin, help your skin breathe, increase circulation and bright- en the appearance of your skin. The skin is an organ of elimination.
- And if you delight in taking a bath, that’s another way to help clear the skin and open additional pathway of elimination. Add 2-4 cups of Epsom salts to a warm-hot bath and soak away the cares of the day, easing muscle aches as well. If you want to make it extra relaxing, add five drops (or more, depending on how sensitive your skin is) of organic essential oil of lavender (or another organic essential oil you find relaxing) to 1⁄4 cup organic milk, then add the milk/lavender combo to the bath just before entering.
- If you fly, the airplane atmosphere can also be drying to your skin. Apply body lotion before your flight to keep your skin moisturized. How can you
tell if your body lotion is working hard enough? Your skin should feel dewy and supple when you land.
- Do you have trouble getting in the habit of washing your face every night? Are you just too tired after evening chores, a night out, or while you are travelling? Try switching up your routine. Shortly after dinner, while you are still alert, wash your face and complete your nighttime skin care routine. Apply serums, moisturizer, eye cream or any treatment products. Brush your teeth. Use a Water Pik and/or floss. Then relax into your evening. You won’t miss a step because you’re too tired. Once you’ve brushed your teeth, you’ll be less tempted for a late-night bowl of ice cream or sweets. Washing your face will perk you up a bit. Then you can enjoy the rest of your evening until you go to bed at that reasonable hour (hint, hint).
CHAPTER 6 Lifestyle
Smoking, of course, is a big no-no for any and all health reasons!
But here are more suggestions:
- Wear gloves while doing wet chores (like dishes or cleaning) and gardening or doing chores. Look for latex or nitrile gloves.
- How many times have we been told to control stress? Stress redirects blood flow from the face and skin to the organ systems. Cortisol (the stress hormone) can make your skin more reactive and cause discoloration and rashes, and increase the loss of collagen. Collagen is located in tendons, ligaments, bone, the digestive tract and spinal discs. So learning to control stress helps all body systems function more optimally, so it’s a good skill to practice. Different stress-relieving techniques may be called on at different times, so it’s good to have options: meditation techniques, an exercise class or two, even dancing, flower-arranging or a coloring book can help. Remember that cup of green tea? Just sit and sip it while looking out a window at a tree or greenery or water fountain – no mobile phone – and quiet your mind. There is a classic meditation teaching that says, “If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, then meditate for an hour.” I like the Insight Meditation App, and some people like Headspace.
- Skin, body and brain repair during sleep, so make sure you sleep seven to eight hours each night. Waking frequently during the night, waking up tired, having a hard time staying asleep, and not going to bed until after mid- night could be a sign that you need help in creating an environment more conducive to sleep.
- And speaking of sleep, if you are a side-sleeper, then you may be creating more wrinkles on one side than the other. So try to get in the habit of sleeping on both sides equally, but better yet see if you can sleep comfortably on your back.
- Exercise promotes circulation all over the body, including your face, and helps reduce stress. If you don’t like the idea of exercising, then take a dance break!
- Become conscious of frowning or furrowing your brow, pursing your lips or holding your mouth tightly. Relax your face. Keep your eyes and tongue soft (see if you can relax the root of your tongue by letting it fall away from your teeth and top palate). Many people are more expressive during sleep than they realize, which includes teeth clenching as well as tightening facial muscles. A well-fitting mouth guard (see your dentist) will help you relax your jaw while you sleep. Frownies, an adhesive tape-like product, can help soften your face while you sleep, but you need to make sure the adhesive doesn’t irritate your skin frownies.com/fbe-wrin- kle-patches.php.
- Determine what your healthy weight should be, and try to achieve and maintain it. If you lose significant weight after 40, you may experience saggy skin. Maintaining a healthy weight will help with joint health, digestion and vitality, not to mention a satisfying self-image.
- Visit a dermatologist every 12-18 months to check your skin for any pre-cancerous lesions, more frequently if you have a history of skin irregularities or are outside a lot for sports, hobbies or outdoor work. If you or your dermatologist spots something, make sure you or they take a picture of it and/or note it’s location and measurements in your chart to make sure it is not changing over time.
- Do you drive a lot? If so, tint your side and rear car windows to block out UVB (ultraviolet B) and UVA (ultraviolet A) rays. Most window glass will block out UVB, but UVA rays go through glass. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing DNA damage that can accelerate skin aging and potentially lead to skin cancers. Although the windshield is coated to block both, more than 50% of UVA rays come in through the side and rear windows. Babies and children frequently sit in the back seat, and they don’t yet have enough protective pigment to defend against all those UVA rays. US drivers may notice more sun-exposure problems on the left side of their faces, since that side is exposed while driving. Transparent films are available in varying strengths from clear to dark that screen out 99% of UVA/ UVB without reducing visibility. And if you are in the habit of sitting in a sunny window at home, consider tinting that
window as well.
Avoid Triclosan, a popular anti-bacterial ingredient that was added to hand-sanitizers, soaps and a host of other products. It was originally used in hospitals and healthcare settings. “Studies have increasingly linked it, and its chemical cousin triclocarban, to a range of adverse health and environmental effects from skin irritation, endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems,” according to Beyond Pesticides Group.
Acupunture has been used for thousands of years for a wide variety of ailments. Published research shows it is effective for many kinds of pain relief and nausea; it is even covered by some insurance companies. It has been used to treat PTSD, to increase the effectiveness of In-Vitro Fertilization, and even to turn breech babies. And now we can use cosmetic acupuncture as a much safer alternative to surgery, chemical peels and injections. The result is more natural-looking than other more invasive cosmetic techniques. Cosmetic acupuncture is based on a preliminary assessment and treatment of your overall health. That is addressed at the beginning of each treatment, then facial needles are added afterwards. A classic superﬁcial needling technique is used that increases oxygen and blood ﬂow to the face, enhancing the production of collagen and elastin. Most people see a reduction in puffiness and/or redness, improved muscle tone, more even skin tone, reduction in ﬁne lines and sometimes even softer skin texture. “Side effects” include better sleep, improved digestion and stress relief. Of course, many factors contribute to visible signs of aging, such as sun damage, smoking, stress, diet and lifestyle. Skin must be taken care of from the outside as well as the inside.
Refill sources for Supplements and HerbsMedical DisclaimerThis content is for informational purposes only. It is NOT intended as a substitute for the advice given to you by your physician or otherhealthcare professionals. Do not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your physicianor other healthcare professional before taking any medication, nutritional, herbal or homeopathic substance. If you have or suspect you havea medical problem, contact your healthcare provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professionaladvice because of something you have read here.Information in this document and the use of any products or services related to this document by you DOES NOT create a doctor-patientrelationship between you and Therese Walsh-Van Keuren, Ph.D LAc.Three Pots of TeaThe collective wisdom and perspective of three women who have been studying and practicing acupuncture and herbal medicine for over 20 years each. We have consumed countless pots of tea as we compared notes, case studies, and furthered our education in our commitment to grow as practitioners and help our patients reclaim their health and vitality.Kathleen Port, L.Ac. West Los AngelesKia Sinay, L.Ac. Manhattan BeachTherese Walsh-Van Keuren, PhD, L.Ac, Los Gatos